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A Farewell to Arms Control

Posted on Jul 5, 2007
Indian nuke
AP Photo / Ajit Kumar, File

Indian officers show off a nuclear-capable missile. With nuclear proliferation running amok in recent years, from India and Pakistan to Iran and North Korea, Scott Ritter argues that highly trained U.N. disarmament experts should be cultivated and deployed.

By Scott Ritter

(Page 2)

This disease consumed UNSCOM in its final days, and went on to infect UNMOVIC as well.  Even now, with the nails all but hammered in place on UNMOVIC’s coffin, the head of UNMOVIC, Demetrius Perricos, continues to point to a “residue of uncertainty” about Iraq’s disarmed status, saying there are people, material and intellectual know-how which still need to be monitored.  One would expect the Bush administration and its defenders to leap on any suggestion by a senior U.N. official that Iraq was somehow not disarmed.  Yet not even Bush and his coterie of blood-stained warmongers will breathe credibility into the fanciful mental meanderings of a captain whose ship has already sunk.

History has certified the work of the inspectors as being technically brilliant, and politically disastrous.  Two things can be said of the U.N. inspection experience in Iraq.  First, international inspections, properly led and equipped, can achieve meaningful disarmament results even under the most arduous of conditions.  The second is that multilateral inspection regimes will always fail if the entirety of the body mandating the inspections fails to come to a singular agreement on the scale and scope of the disarmament mission.  American (and to a lesser extent British) embrace of regime-change policies which were not contained in the U.N. mandate regarding Iraq meant the political death of the inspections.  These are pure truths which need to be recognized and acted upon if any future multilateral international approach to disarmament and arms control is ever to reach fruition.  So long as the United States continues to behave as if it has sole authority to deviate from the framework of international law set forth by the United Nations, there can be no hope for any meaningful progression in the field of threat reduction born of arms control and disarmament.  Indeed, the opposite will occur—a world grown wary of American treachery will seek to acquire the means to deter, and perhaps even push back, what it sees as an American unilateral domination of the globe.

While it is difficult to predict the future, what can be said with absolute certainty is that the passing of UNMOVIC represents far more than a political stain on those who claim to embrace global nonproliferation but in reality smother it.  The political aspects of the aggregate of failure which combined to sink UNMOVIC have been underscored above.  The true tragedy of UNMOVIC’s demise rests not with bad policy, but rather with the loss of irreplaceable technical expertise.  I do not refer to the library of inspection data derived from the 16-year disarmament saga in Iraq; this data is tainted by the political corruption of the inspection process.  What I lament is the passing of potential, both realized and future, represented by the proactive work of some of the world’s greatest nonproliferation minds.

For the past seven years, UNMOVIC, led by the intrepid Russian weapons inspector Nikita Smidovich, has built an unprecedented program of training of international weapons inspectors.  The qualification standards certified through this comprehensive training process has led to the creation of a cadre of international experts in the field of nonproliferation.  Smidovich created a network of training opportunities in facilities in Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, Germany, Russia and Britain, to name a few.  The hundreds of inspectors who have completed this training stood ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice to investigate whether a given manufacturing process was legitimately utilized or instead covertly diverted for illegitimate use.  This inspection capability far exceeded anything the world would ever need in Iraq, and had great potential for pre-emptive application in any number of proliferation trouble spots, from Iran to North Korea and beyond.  For an annual cost of a few million dollars, the inspection potential created by Smidovich and others, operating under the umbrella of UNMOVIC, had the potential to prevent conflicts costing untold billions.

This capability is now forever lost with the demise of UNMOVIC, proof positive that the real problems confronting the world’s collective peace and security continue to be undermined by an American administration willing to exact any price in order to win cheap political points.  Americans rightly measure the cost of the Iraq war in terms of dead and wounded American service members.  Some even spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties.  But scant few will reflect on the potential harm done to future generations of Americans, and others around the world, as we bid a silent farewell to meaningful arms control.

Scott Ritter was a Marine Corps intelligence officer from 1984 to 1991 and a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998.  He is the author of numerous books. His latest is “Waging Peace: The Art of War for the Antiwar Movement” (Nation Books, April 2007).


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By pac plyer, August 11, 2007 at 5:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

American History is repleat with fabricated invasion.  We are merely repeating convieniently forgotten history; so we shoudn’t be suprised when the military/industrial/big-corp puppets decide to put a cork in any country who threatens to unleash cheap oil on the world.  After all, these are all texas oil men in the white house; you have to understand their motivations for commiting such crimes against humanity.  Iran is next, it is surrounded by the US army on both sides, and it is easy to evacuate poor Bagdad by mobilizing out of there to stop Iran’s cheap oil/natural gas from hitting the market without passing through US oil pipelines and companies.  In ten years, this admin will be all but forgotton. But the nuclear mistakes made by them will curse your children and their children.  The Nuclear menace demands we endanger our own personal safety and remove this administration by whatever means we can. They have proven to be incompetent custodians of not only our gov, but of the planet and of public safety in general.  They (The Cheney Admin) are more dangerous than any boogieman terrorist real or imagined.  Men like Scot Ritter are our only hope, imho.  Let’s hope he condenses his prose for the reality-TV majority who he is trying to reach, and runs for opposition leadership before it is too late for us all.


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By Chaseme, July 9, 2007 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When will we learn to love as though our lives depend on it…because it does.

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By jmndodge, July 9, 2007 at 8:38 am Link to this comment

A friend used that old expression, “figures never lie, but lairs figure”.  The context a board meeting of clergy and layment administrating a youth camp.  The topic giving.  This layman (an accountant) went on tell us he believed in tithing,  but it’s not easy.  He talked personally, “I don’t know how much I’ve made, until year end, when I adjust figures to report income.” It is very possible to adjust investment, accounts paid vs recievable and the popular “investment credit” as well as simiple business expenses.  A smile on his face, he said, for my giving I need to determine what kind of accountant I am,  $10,000 a year or $40,000.  It was a while ago, and he continued, “I live well”.  The tragic situation today is our perception and spin on actual numbers, and meaning we assign them.  Our nation needs to wake up and decide what kind of people (accountant) we are, and shape our policy based on that reality.  I for one am tired of attempting to shape our policy by who we picture the enemy to be.  Torture, restriction of constitutional rights, a war born by a small percentagae of our population, cut backs in education and health care, racism and our growing prison population would be impossible if we set policy based our our ideals, and identity.  Time to wake up, and look in the mirror.  Let us no longer see reflected the face of the one we most fear.

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By weather, July 7, 2007 at 7:33 pm Link to this comment

We need a room full of Ritters and battalions of patriots to dislodge this incumbency of deceit we face from all sides save but a few.

Deceit is a disease that tells us we don’t have one and this Im afraid is systemic.

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By ardee, July 7, 2007 at 4:50 pm Link to this comment

#84835 by Lefty on 7/07 at 11:54 am
(424 comments total)


Errr, Lefty(?), you are aware, are you not, that Pakistan is a Muslim nation and has the Bomb? Or is it just some followers of Islam that you object to obtaining such weaponry? As the current members of that religion number about 1.4 billion you got a lot of them to choose from.

Nelson Mandela once called our policy regarding Nuclear Weaponry , “nuclear apartheid”, and I gotta agree with him.

I havent a clue as to what point you are trying to make, but perhaps neither do you…....The article is about the UN weapons inspection teams and their demise, no mention of Exxon Mobil is necesary to that discussion.

Your tarring of Scott Ritter is just plain unecesary and way beyond any point made in that fine article, perhaps youneed a Prozac?

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By SamSnedegar, July 7, 2007 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Ritter has book contracts to keep him lying—-or failing to deal with the reality of the mideast. As long as he keeps making money from the big time publishers, he won’t be talking about oil, but neither will any of the other sorry specimens you find hereabouts. Since Scheer got fired from the LA Times for telling the truth, the others obviously got the word, and they, (and he), have taken the word “oil” out of their vocabularies. Indeed, they all very likely order only bleu or ranch dressing for their salads to keep from having to say the word oil.

They don’t outright lie; they just refuse to tell the truth, and thus I call them pimps instead of whores, because the whores take money for lying; the pimps just make money by using the whores and dealing in the same process where you never really see their denial of our coveting, lying, stealing, and murdering.

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By PatrickHenry, July 7, 2007 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

#84487 by lilmamzer on 7/06 at 7:57 am

“Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in”.

The U.S. Congress, Senate and executive branches of government are in the pocket of of vast Israeli (AIPAC, JDL, ADL, and a host of others) money and influence.  What a discraceful place for elected officials to end up in.

Fellow Marine Scott Ritter is not a media whore as the others most obviously are.  He means for the well being of my children and those of others in a world ruled by nut cases.

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By ardee, July 6, 2007 at 4:49 pm Link to this comment

#84487 by lilmamzer on 7/06 at 7:57 am
(369 comments total)

Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in.

Speaking of pockets, do they have any in your straight jacket? Oh and how on earth do you type while wearing one?

You know, with friends like you Israel could do with less friends…oy gevalt epis…...

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By felicity, July 6, 2007 at 12:44 pm Link to this comment

For those who think Ritter is talking out of something other than his mouth, “The establishment of fact would have little bearing on a process in which proving the negative had become the standard for any final judgement,” (to quote him) should remind you of Rumsfeld’s “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” 

In fact, proving the negative, always an impossibility, was the final justification for the invasion - other than Rice’s ‘mushroom cloud.’  Saddam couldn’t prove he didn’t have something he didn’t have - try it some time - so WE had to look for the non-existent something to prove he indeed had something that he didn’t have. Confused yet?

The demise of that inspection team is, I’m afraid, the final nail in the coffin of a stable world.

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By lilmamzer, July 6, 2007 at 8:57 am Link to this comment

Scott Ritter is in the pocket of vast Saudi (Religion Of Peace©) money and influence. What a disgraceful place for a former Marine to end up in.

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By Enemy of State, July 5, 2007 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment

Wow! This is the first I’ve heard that it was US policy not only under Bush the second, but also under Clinton to deliberatetely paint the reqime as hopelessly recalcitrant. I’m always skeptical of any extraordinary claim from a single source. I hope Scott can come of with some supporting information.

  Then if it turns out to be provable, the question naturally arises: “Why would Clinton have gone along with this sinister plan?” Was there some sort of political calculus that made an intractable conflict with Iraq politically attractive to the Democrats? If so that is highly disturbing, as the sanctions regime was costing ordinary Iraqis greatly in terms of their health. I’d like to believe my government wouldn’t be willing to make millions of innocent foreigners pay such a high price for political convenience.

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By weather, July 5, 2007 at 6:30 pm Link to this comment

Instead of moving forward into a new and very challenged century w/esteemable hope, we are being dragged down into a dark, draconian hole w/out a flashlight - and the Media monster wants to be the tour guide w/Mitt Romney as just another deceitful mouthpiece.
Very lovely too that the Clinton’s took the brown bag as well.

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By Nick, July 5, 2007 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Only an idiot would compare INDIA with Pakistan, N.Korea and Iran when it comes to proliferation issues.  India is surrounded by hostile countries.  It has the right to deter any threats by any means that it can afford.  India also has NO FIRST USE treaties with even these hostile countries. 

Furthermore, its disgusting that a person from the only country that has used atomic weapons on civilian populations would venture out with this hypocrisy.

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By PatrickHenry, July 5, 2007 at 5:00 pm Link to this comment

It is by the American example that these other nations arm.

The 30 year legacy of administrations, both Republican and Democratic, within a small sphere of people, have effectively changed the American dream into the American nightmare.

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